Jun 012015

VintageTexas Semi-Sweet Coriander Pickles

VintageTexas Semi-Sweet Coriander Pickles

Here’s a break from Texas wine, but for something that still has a good dose of Texas flavor. It’s my recipe for by Texas Semi-Sweet Coriander Pickles. All of the major ingredients and herbs could come from a local garden. However, this year (after losing and re-finding my recipe), I felt that it was time to gather ingredients from garden and markets.

18                   Baby cucumbers (4-6 inch long)

2                     Large jalapeño peppers

1                      Medium sweet onion, e.g. Texas 10-15 (peeled, washed and cut into four rings, quartered and separated)

8                      Large cloves garlic (pealed and halved)

1-cup              Carrots (Julienned and rinsed)

10-cups          Water

10-cups          White vinegar

8                      (Dry or Wet) Sterilized Pint Glass Bottles & Lids

Per bottle:

3 Tbsps.         White granulated sugar

1 Tbsp.           Pickling spice

1 tsp.               Kosher salt

1 tsp.               Coriander seeds

¼ tsp.            Celery seed (ground)

½ tsp.            Fresh finely chopped cilantro (with flowers/seed, if available)

¼ tsp.            Dried Mexican oregano

1 tsp.               Texas wildflower honey

1 sprig             Fresh dill

In this case, the cucumbers were market bought but from Texas, as were the jalapeños. My carrots from puny this year (little short runts – cute actually) and I saved them for salads. The Texas Sweet 10-15 onions weren’t in season so I went with Vidalias. Important ingredients that were from Texas were the chopped cilantro that had both flowers and seed pods (coriander) on it, wildflower honey and Mexican oregano. Now for the pickle-making procedure…


Wash cucumbers and soak in cold water. Cut cucumbers into approx. ¼ -inch slices and return to water. Wash and cut Jalapeños. Cut them longitudinally to remove ¼ to ½-inch strips while leaving the seeds and white membranes behind. Divide cucumber slices, jalapeño slices, onion sections, garlic slices and julienned carrots into eight equal amounts and tightly pack in each of the 8 bottles. To each bottle, add indicated amounts of sugar, pickling spice, salt, coriander seeds, ground celery seed, chopped cilantro, Mexican oregano, dill and Texas wildflower honey. Add water and vinegar to large pot and heat to a rolling boil. Once boiling, transfer water/vinegar solution into each jar using a ladle and a large opening funnel. Fill each bottle to rim and tightly screw on lid. Once bottles are cool enough to handle, transfer them to refrigerator and keep 1 to 3 days before serving. Should keep refrigerated for 30-60 days if they last that long.

Tip: Serve pickled cucumbers, onions, jalapeños and carrots with cilantro seeds. They give a flavorful crunch. For spicier pickles, also add desired amount of jalapeño seeds to each bottle before adding water/vinegar solution. For sweeter pickles add more honey.


 Posted by at 10:52 am
May 192015


A Difference You Can Taste: Perissos Vineyards 2014 Viognier

You might say that the Perissos Vineyard 2014 Viognier is a “whole bunch better”.  OK, there was no 2013 Perissos Viognier due to the series of late Spring frosts. So, you might ask, “better than what”.

I first got the feeling that things were going to be different when, during the 2014 harvest, I showed up at Perissos Vineyard near the Texas hamlet of Burnet. Winery owner and winemaker Seth Martin was pressing his freshly harvested Viognier and keeping a close eye on the pressure gauge on his press.

As my notes said, “ I showed up to see what Seth was doing. It was a remarkable August 1st harvest day for his estate vineyard’s Viognier. The Muscat was already in the winery, the vineyard temperatures were hanging around the upper 80s, refreshing breezes whisked through the vines, vineyard hands were lunching on pizza and Viognier juice was running from his press….” [Click here for more.] 

When I asked Seth, what was up to warrant all this attention? He said, “I’m trying something new, at least for us. We’re whole cluster pressing our Viognier.” Seth’s reference to cluster pressing was a reference to a technique counter to the norm in most wineries today where the grapes are sent through a crusher/destemmer before pressing.

Well, it’s a year later and I’ve just had my first opportunity to taste the fruits of Seth’s labor on the Perissos Vineyard 2014 Viognier. Available for a side-by-side tasting was Seth’s very worthy Perissos Vineyard 2012 Viognier.


Left: Perissos 2014 Viognier; Right Perissos 2012 Viognier

The comparison starts in the glass. The 2014 Viognier shows its difference with a blush, a copper tone added to the golden straw usually exhibited by Viognier wines. In the glass, there was an aromatic finesse launched with waxy floral notes of plumeria integrated with peach and pear that seemed to seamlessly flow into the essence of white peach on the palate. By comparison the 2012 Viognier was also carried by aromatic notes but from ripe tropical fruits that land on the palate with a tartness of green papaya salad with orange citrus dressing. Both are good wine, but the 2014 Viognier raises the bar on what I would describe as finesse: the characteristic of a soft, more refined and integrated manner, yet interesting in its ability to linger on and on. Where the 2012 might be described as a bit heady and ripe, the 2014 plays a more approachable and passionate game capable of accompanying lighter fare.

Previously, I had seen the cluster pressing method used, but mostly applied to Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and especially in the making sparkling wines and Champagne.  My introduction was during a winery visit in the Russian River region of California. Its main benefits were to overcome avoid harsh edges in early-harvested grapes with low Brix common for sparkling wine production. During my visit to Perissos, whole cluster pressing of warm weather grapes like Viognier appears to yield benefits Texan can enjoy.

When I checked my notes made after my 2014 Perissos visit, I found this comment:

“My guess is that this process will make a different style wine for Seth. It generally creates a more delicate, lighter-styled wine than using conventional destemming and crushing. However, it can also bring a few new high notes and tannins to the wine derived from the seeds and stems if higher pressing pressures are used. Such are the yin-yang stylistic dilemmas of winemakers that try to push their limits.”

I can say now that Seth’s careful attention to the pressure gauge on his press was well placed and the outcome for the Perissos 2014 Viognier was exceptional.

Seth Martin – Owner & Winemaker at Perissos Vineyard near Burnet, TX.

 Posted by at 2:40 pm
May 112015

Eden Hill Vineyards Temptation Sparkling Wine

 Temptation by the Bottle: A Sparkling Wine from Eden Hill Vineyards

Chris Hornbaker, winemaker at Eden Hill Vineyard & Winery, said, “As you know, Eden Hill is dedicated to making wine from Texas grapes.  We wanted to bring to our customers a sparkling wine that was uniquely Texan, a sparkling wine they could be proud to share with friends and be proud to say was grown and made right here in the state.”

As most Texas wine drinkers know by now, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the traditional grapes used in the sparkling wines from the French region of Champagne, are hard to grow reliably in Texas.  Texas is ain’t Burgundy, if you know what I mean. If a sparkling wine was going to be made at Eden Hill, they needed to search for more reliable and quality Texas grape.

Chris related, “We really owe the idea of a sparkling Roussanne wine to my mom, Linda. One day she said, ‘What about our Roussanne grapes?’.  We had been making dry Roussanne still wine for several years, and Linda had always noticed it had full-bodied character like Chardonnay.”

Whereas Chardonnay’s lineage come from France’s Burgundy region, Roussanne appears to have originated in a Rhône wine growing region of France. Today, it is an important blending component in the wines of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph. In fact, in the French region of Saint-Péray, it is used for both still and sparkling wine production. A quick Google search also shows sparkling Roussannes are showing up in many new world regions like Washington State, even in Australia, and now evidently Texas.


Rosy-skinned Roussanne grapes nearing harvest

Chris said, “We talked to our Roussanne grower, John Oswald, and we all agreed to take a chance.  Texans aren’t shy about taking risks, right?  Well, after we popped the cork and had a taste, that first bottle of our new sparkler was gone in minutes. This wine was just so tempting to reach for another glass.  That’s how it got its name, “Temptation”.

You know, after just looking at the freshly poured glass of Eden Hill Temptation, I have to concur with Chris: it was tempting to the eyes and mind even before tasting. The color was hard to describe. I wrote down “coppery-blonde” and “Texas Prairie grass in a late summer sunset”. The wine was all cool and bubbly and actually quite appealing. Chris described this remarkable color as “light peach-gold” or a “light rosy-gold” and he feels it came from the grape skin contact given the wine.

A complex array of aromas and flavors exuded from this wine made for a tempting tasting experience, as well. Upon tasting, the sensory attributes I wrote down included apricot, Mandarin orange, tangerine, ginger, honeysuckle, and toasted almonds with lemon-citrus notes in the background (see my color rendition below). In my book, any wine with that many descriptors is complex and very likely to be a good one!


Tasting Notes for Eden Hill Temptation

The aforementioned descriptors play well with the wine’s moderate sweetness gained from 2-3% residual sugar content that also plays off the wine’s crisp acidity and lower 13.1% alcohol. The food pairing options for this wine are amazing, and are perhaps as tempting as the wine itself. Pairings for this wine range from spicy Tex-Mex chicken enchiladas, to Thai green or yellow curries, to Indonesian satay, to Italian Cream cake. Or, you can make it very simple on yourself. Just pour a glass of this sparkling wine, put your feet up, and enjoy Temptation with a few cream filled chocolate truffles.

Chris also said, “This wine’s been such a success for us at the winery and at festivals that we are planning to dedicate a portion of our Roussanne crop to it each year. In the future, we will most likely add a dry sparkling Roussanne to the line up as well.   We are constantly amazed at the versatility of the Roussanne grape in Texas.”

Chris also admitted that great wine starts with great grapes. That credit he again gave to John Oswald, their Roussanne grower in Brownfield in the Texas High Plains wine growing appellation (around Lubbock).

More information on Eden Hill Vineyards & Winery and this wine can be found online at www.edenhill.com. By the way, they will be launching their new Eden Hill eCommerce website in a few weeks. So, you want to taste Temptation but can’t make the drive up to the winery’s tasting room in Celina, you’ll be able to buy it from the wineries website.


 Posted by at 1:36 pm
May 072015


Texas Wine Quality Alliance is Up and Running!

I’m pleased to accounce that the new Texas Wine Quality Alliance (at www.texaswinequalityalliance.org) is up and running.

This group is organized to “Advance the Excellence of Texas Wines” through quantitative and organoleptic testing as well as education and marketing. The goal is to develop consumer confidence in the quality of Texas Wines and increase sales of those wineries who participate in the program. It will involve the evaluation of Texas wines to meet certain standards of quality. For these wines, the label must accurately reflect where the wine was produced and the origin of fruit.

More specifically,  for wines to be considered for evaluation by the Texas Wine Quality Alliance they must be produced by a member winery or have been purchased from another Texas source. The AVA designation on the label of the wine must accurately represent that 85% or more of the fruit in the wine is from a vineyard in the designated AVA in Texas in accordance with TTB guidelines. Only approved Texas AVA designations are acceptable for wines to be evaluated. A Texas only AVA designation on the label must represent that 75% of more of the fruit in the wine to be of Texas Origin.

For more information on the charter of this new organization, go to:


If you are interested to know more or to participate, go to the website and click on “About the Alliance” . You will find an invitation to the next meeting and grower/winery applications. Hope you all can make this next meeting as they will be electing an interim Board of Directors and appointing some of the committee chairs.

 Posted by at 4:48 pm
Apr 232015

And the Survey Says….The Right Grapes for Texas Wine!

I recently posed the following question to members of the Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group:

What are the best red and white grapes for Texas? I further specified that my quest was to identify the grapes that liked to grow here, made quality wines and that consumers liked to drink.

After over a hundred responses, I tallied up the count that I have summarized in the two plots below:

Results of Survey of Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group Members

Results of Survey of Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group Members

For the white grapes, the over whelming favorite was Viognier. I believe that this selection was the result of the great visibility and acclaim this grape has received in Texas wines at the state, national and international level. It does not indicate that this is a particularly easy grape to grow in Texas, particularly due to the difficulties of late springtime freeze events (e.g. 2009 and 2013). An even more important results are the focus of the FB-TWD group members on Roussanne and Blanc Du Bois. These two grapes are notable for two reasons: Roussanne buds significantly later than Viognier but has many similar wine characteristics; Blanc Du Bois is our de facto state non-vinifera grape (it grows in many parts of Texas where vinifera grapes are challenged and it also makes very nice wines in a wide variety of styles. I’m particularly excited by the inclusion of Blanc Du Bois in the top three as it has the potential to be a grape that is primarily grown in Texas.

Results of Survey of Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group Members

Results of Survey of Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group Members

It was no surprise that Tempranillo was the hands down winner in the red grape category. As proclaimed by Jim Johnson at Alamosa Wine Cellars (and one of the first to make a commercial Tempranillo wine in Texas), “Tempranillo is the national grape of Texas.” Coming in second was Mourvedre. While this grape begs for a blending companion for optimum results, it also buds out later than most other vinifera grapes in Texas. This helps it beat the late spring freeze all to common in Texas. Mourvedre also takes its time in the Texas sun and ripens slow and steady in our summertime heat. Tannat, Sangiovese and Malbec are in the runners-up positions. Tannat (subject to lots of new plantings in Texas) is one tough son of a gun of a grape, has high levels of resveratrol (sp? – help me our Bob Young who’s its champion), and adds a dollop of color and structure to anything else in the bottle with it. Sangiovese in Texas, well my opinion is that is does well with a hit of Cabernet (or similar) in it to present it’s best. Malbec is still a mystery to me when I think about where it can or will go in Texas.

I agree with those that say that Texas is too large to be a one (or two) grape state. It’s got the size of France, please keep that in mind. I also agree with those that embrace the “Champagne Model” for Texas This model says that every year is not a vintage year. Lets plant smart, prune wisely, have lots of tank capacity and then take what nature gives us. This means use the flexibility that multi-varietal blends provide and add the even greater flexibility of multi-vintage blending, too. In Texas, we need to think as out-of-the-box as Champagne (the region) and do what we can to define a viable and sustainable winemaking industry for Texas.

Thanks to all that gave their input. Hopefully, Texas wine consumers, growers and vintners will see this as eye opening and I do.



For those of you who are not a member of the Facebook Group – Texas Wine Drinkers, but who would like to join, see the following link. It costs nothing and you get pugged in with over 2500 other Texas wine aficionados that regularly share they thoughts and tastes to their friends on the group. See:


 Posted by at 3:16 am
Apr 152015


The Wine Society of Texas Announces 2015 Scholarship Grant Program

Copy of WST Grant Application: NR-WST-Scholar-Announ-04082015

The Wine Society of Texas will provide up to $7,000 in assistance for the wine education, internship or field study, and appreciation of wine through education.

On Tuesday April 14, 2015, The Wine Society of Texas (WST), a 501c3 non-profit educational organization announced that it is accepting applications for its annual Scholarship Grant Program. In order to apply for the grant, individuals must be: (a) attending institutions in the State of Texas studying viticulture and oenology, or (b) pursuing winery internships in Texas, or (c) involved with Texas winemaking or field studies / wine education, or (d) involved in promoting the education of grape growing and wine making in the State of Texas. Grants may be given depending on the quality of requests in the amount totaling up to $7,000 by the WST. The scholarship program is consistent with the founding idea of WST and its continuing mission to promote Texas winemakers and grape growers, enhance the appreciation of wines, foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture, and support charitable activities.

According to Ms. Shirley Choate, WST President, “The WST Scholarship program offers financial assistance for tuition, books, or for related travel expenses for individuals registered or in a program of study with a Texas university or college offering accredited courses in viticulture or oenology. Financial assistance can also be provided for winery internships in Texas or for Texas winemaker studies. The funding for the WST Scholarship program is provided from charitable donations, local WST Chapter fund raising events, and various WST statewide wine events such as the wine education seminars. Our scholarship supports local Texas wine talent, which will be the future of the Texas wine and hospitality industry.”

WST has awarded over $37,000 in grants over the past 10 years. The awards have been used for a variety of purposes – research for the Texas wine industry including Pierce’s disease, Wine Symposium and Conferences, financial assistance for students attending Viticulture or Hotel Management programs, wine sommelier studies, and authors on the Texas Wine Industry.

The WST will be accepting applications up to 15, June, 2015.  All applications must be returned by this date, fully completed and with all necessary documents, to The Wine Society of Texas. Applicants are required to fill out the WST Scholarship Application, which will be reviewed by the WST Scholarship Committee.  The committee may recommend single or multiple awards depending on the quality of applications received. All decisions will be final and applying does not guarantee receiving a grant.  The WST scholarship award(s) will be announced in the summer of 2015.

For more information about the scholarship program or the WST please visit our website at www.winesocietyoftexas.org.


The Wine Society of Texas (www.winesocietyoftexas.org), headquartered in Midland, Texas, was started in 1996 and received its 501(c) 3 non-profit status in 1999. It has about 200 members around the State of Texas. The WST mission is: to enhance the appreciation of wine, especially Texas wines; educate the experienced as well as the beginning wine taster; promote the wine makers, and grape growers; foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture; help in charitable activities throughout the state of Texas; and promote the responsible consumption of wine. It organizes events that promote appreciation of wine through education in a comfortable social setting.  The WST offers annual grants from its Scholarship Fund to assist in wine education, internships and field training.

 Posted by at 10:26 am
Apr 142015


Texans Sure Do Like Their Bubbles: Domaine Carneros Provides

When Domaine Carneros winemaker Eileen Crane and I met for lunch last week for lunch at Houston’s RDG Bar Annie, nearly the first thing that came up in conversation was the fact that the second largest Domaine Carneros wine club was the one right here in Texas. The largest of their wine clubs was the one back on its home California turf: the winery’s 138-acre estate parcel in the heart of the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, California.

The Taittinger family behind the world-famous Taittinger Champagne founded Domaine Carneros in California after a search for a worthy U.S. counterpart in the 1970-80s. In 1987, the location of the estate was selected followed in short order by the appointment of Eileen Crane to oversee the development of the winery and vineyards. She has garnered accolades for her winemaking skills. She is still today, the estate’s only winemaker from the inception of its operations.


Domaine Carneros Winemaker Eileen Crane

International wine reviewer, investment advisor and highly credited Houston oenophile Denman Moody also attended our Bar Annie lunch. As we tasted through three of Eileen’s sparkling wines (Brut, non-vintage Rose’, and Le Rêve) Denman pounded question after question about dosage, release date, alcohol content and price point. I took a more laid back approach trying to better absorb why a lady of Eileen’s winemaking stature was doing a tour through Texas, albeit well-timed to get an advance on our soon to be hot season.

The Domaine Carneros sparkling wines were stellar:

2010 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut – Rich, substantial mouth feel, essence of roasted almonds and hazelnuts melded with lemon citrus and brioche. A value priced sparkling wine at about $30. This one get’s my acknowledgement of “Best Buy” in the sparkling wine category.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé NV – A Lively combo of raspberry, ripe stone fruit and citrus with underlying mineral notes. A worthy drink with a wondrous color and sparkle at $38.

Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – A traditional tête de cuvee made from the chateau’s estate Chardonnay playing with yellow delicious apples, young ground ginger, brioche and pleasingly tart lemon citrus. A worthy and classic sparkling cuvée for enjoyment at the moment of a special encounter at $108.

I have to admit that I initially missed Eileen’s point about her Texas customers until later in our conversation when she reiterated the significance of the ardent following Domaine Carneros has in Texas. But, it hit home to me when she said, “Texans sure do like their bubbles”. You know something? It was over a decade ago, long before I met Eileen, when I realized precisely the same thing.

While doing research on wine drinking in Texas, I came across one very old receipt for a purchase of French Champagne by early Texas impresario, statesman and revolutionary Lorenzo de Zavala from May 18, 1831 (France – Île-de-France – Paris). Those were the days on the Texas frontier when you really had to plan ahead for a good bottle of bubbly (and hope for the best). Later, I found further evidence for the Texas love of bubbles in numerous accounts of Texans’ Champagne toasts on occasions of New Years, baby births and corporate promotions; also to mention launching of ships and celebrations of our Texas wildcatting successes, too. In their day, Texans of high society have reportedly been seen in some of the finest restaurants in the State drinking Champagne (with a certain Texas flourish, no doubt)  from their lady fairs’ high-heeled slippers.

It is obvious that Eileen and her colleagues at Domaine Carneros know what Texan’s like and that Texans know their favored brands. She said, “They like brands like our that always denote quality, value and that have been consistently in the Texas marketplace for many years.”

As we received our lunch offerings, Eileen, Denman and I moved forward with a tasting to two of Eileen’s Domaine Carneros Pinot Noirs:

2012 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir – A blend of eleven unique clones of Pinot Noir, all from the Chateau’s estate vineyard. Near the cool north end of San Francisco Bay with ethereal smoky notes overlaid onto nuances of black raspberry and mineral rich soil. Plays quite well at this value price of around $36 (Just try to beat this for price and quality points).

2012 Domaine Carneros The Famous Gate – A blend of four select, estate-grown Pinot Noir clones; an artisanally-made wine with wonderful color and aromatic extraction. A sophisticated mélange of ripe red and black fruit, minerals with a soft and silky finish.


Chateau at Domaine Carneros

As we sipped, Eileen related a story highlighting Domains Carneros’s special relationship with Texans. She said, “Many years ago, one of our good sparkling wine customers in Texas, a guy named Bill in Dallas I as I recall. He called the chateau and asked why we didn’t make a sparkling Rosé. Well, I decided to take Bill’s lead and made a limited release; 100 cases or so. We ended up with our telemarketers getting an instant demand for the product in Texas even before we could ship this new wine into Texas. Shortly thereafter, we started to see Texans showing up at the chateau in California in their SUVs. They were coming to pick up our Brut Rosé and drive it back to enjoy in Texas.”

Eileen Crane thank you for your time for conversation and the opportunity to enjoy your wines over a very interesting and enjoyable lunch. Also, thanks for your chateau’s commitment to Texas wine consumers and for including Houston in your travel plans.

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Apr 042015


Raise a Toast to El Paso del Norte, Fray Garcia de San Francisco and our Modern Texas Wine Industry.

Sacramental wine in early El Paso del Norte apparently had its roots farther north up the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Before Fray Garcia de San Francisco came to El Paso to found the Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and planted vineyards, he served in San Antonio de Senecú (in present-day New Mexico).

It is reported that as early as the 1630s the Senecú Mission produced  wine to supply other missions in New Mexico. To bolster his locally produced wine, his Franciscans  also received shipments of wine from Mexico City. These shipments were imported Spanish wine that was intended for use in the sacrements of the Catholic Church. Rumor has it that priests may have sold the more desirable Spanish wine to wealthy passioners and substituted the local wine. As we know, the virtues of wine in the Catholic Church is for its sacramental value in the eyes of God and not for its gustatory experience.

However, the Senecú Mission was short lived due to sever and bloody native distrubances. The missionaries eventually reteated southward to the safer confines of the growing and better-defended settlement and mission in El Paso del Norte and it’s shorter and more stable supply lines to Mexico City. Thus, Fray Garcia de San Francisco brought his winegrowing and winemaking talents to El Paso to claim his birthright as the acclaimed “First Viticulturalist of Texas” albeit in advance of Texas independence from Mexican rule that took place over 150 years later.

Another factor that came to bear that helped wine production in El Paso was a change in Spanish policies with respect to wine production in the Americas. As far back as 1519 under direction of the King of Spain, grapevine cuttings and cuttings and root stock were sent in every ship bound for the New World with the hope of  supplying local wine. The efforts to establish a New World wine industry were initially successful. However, in 1595, the king of Spain gave new orders that new plantings or replacements of vineyards in New World were forbidden for fear that the colonies would become self-sufficient in wine production, but it was already too late.

American producers were not permitted to export their wine to any place that could be supplied from Spain, the ban saw only limited enforcement. The aforementioned Spanish prohibition dates from the seventeenth century, precisely the century when  Fray Garcia de San Francisco’s planting of vines began at El Paso del Norte. Best we can tell is that the first cuttings were planted in El Paso del Norte in 1659, the time when he founded the mission there. Reportedly the mission was on the southern bank of the Rio Grande in what became Juarez, Mexico, and his vineyards were planted in the dry rocky, clay-rich red soil on the northern shore. This was more than a hundred years before other Spainsh missionaries first brought their winegrowing and wine culture to California.

Wine production in El Paso and even the production of distilled grape spirits (i.e brandy) evolved into the robust business for the Catholic Church. Eventually, the Mexican government secularized this business that continued to florish as a local commercial industry through the 1700s and up to the mid/late-1800s. The journal entries of travelers through the region during that period are explicit about the high quality of the wines and brandies enjoyed by these early Texas tourists.

The rest is history. There was a long period of struggle in Texas involving battles with native tribes for rights to the land, battles of confederate secession and civil war, and battles of prohibition on sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages. These were not supportive of growing a Texas wine culture.

However, nearly every European immigrant farmer that came to Texas in the 1800s brought with them a love of wine and its place in everyday life. These transplants to Texas tried to make wine, some used native grapes and others found hybrid varieties that could withstand disease pressures and a climate of extremes.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Texas built on its wine legacy. Modern techology and a more affluent and diverse Texas society gave rise to Texas as the fifth largest wine producing state, the seventh largest grape producing state and fourth largest wine consuming state.

And, let’s have a toast to that….Cheers!


Thanks to Rick Hendricks for his historical narrative titled, “Wine Production in El Paso and the Grapevine Inventory of 1755” utilized in part for this blog. See: http://newmexicohistory.org/people/wine-production-in-el-paso-and-the-grapevine-inventory-of-1775 


 Posted by at 11:36 am
Mar 222015


Pedernales Cellars Vermentino and Viognier: Found on My Mediterranean Isle of Texas – Update

I recently sat down to taste two new white wines from the 2014 vintage, both from Pedernales Cellars. This winery has been long known for their Viognier and expectations were high. After all, Pedernales Cellars has been a winner at the top levels of the wine world,  both in Texas and abroad.   In 2013, it was a Pedernales Cellars Viognier garnering Top Texas Wine in the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition and their Reserve Viognier brought home a Grand Gold at the Lyon International Wine Competition.

The other wine from Pedernales Cellars was a Vermentino, new to them but hardly a stranger in Texas thanks to noteworthy achievements with this grape by another Texas winery. None other than international wine luminary Oz Clarke has also heralded Vermentino as the white grape for Texas.

Pedernales Cellars 2014 Viognier was like sipping an elegant fruit cocktail, not the canned variety, rather something worthy of a Wolfgang Puck creation. It had prominent, aromatic notes; peach, pear and a mélange of tropical fruits, crisp acidity on the palate, and finishing with electrifying lemon citrus.

Pedernales Cellars 2014 Vermentino gave ripe Meyer lemon citrus followed by racy lemon zest that was enhanced by herbal notes of thyme and a finish that brings up the minerally limestone character of it’s new found Texas home.

As I tasted both these pleasing Pedernales Cellars wines with Mediterranean heritages, Vermentino from Sardinia and Italian coast, Viognier from southern France, my mind slipped into a bit of whimsical muse. As I tasted, I imagined Texas as an island, yet a rather large one, afloat in the Mediterranean Sea. After a few more sips and time to consider further, this thought did seem a bit preposterous and gave me a chuckle. I realized that the sea’s largest span was the Ionian Basin only 500 miles across.

Alas, not enough to fit our young but up-and-coming wine producing “island” state. Drink on!


For the Rest of the Story – Notes from Pedernales Winemaker David Kuhlken

This Pedernales Viognier was made with grapes from the Bingham Vineyards on the Texas High Plains using limited skin contact, cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks. A small portion of the wine underwent secondary malolactic fermentation adding mouth-feel and complexity. Before bottling the wine was fined and then filtered.

The Pedernales Vermentino was also made with limited skin contact, cool fermentation (small portion with malolactic fermenation) and fined/filtered starting with grapes from Andy Timmons’ Lost Draw Vineyard on the Texas High Plains.

It is important to note that 2014 vintage was important after the major loss of the 2013 High Plains crop to spring freezes. In 2014, there were again spring freezes on the High Plains. However Lost Draw Vineyards led the way in adding freeze protection systems and showed proof that such systems can really work in Texas. The season was slightly wetter and cooler than the previous seasons and has helped to create an exciting vintage with rich fruit.

 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Jan 262015

Stone House Vineyard on Lake Travis

Russ Kane VintageTexas on SommChat Wednesday 1/28 11AM CT – Discuss Texas Hill Country Wines & Wineries

This January marks my 20th year since first finding out that Texas had a native (yet still infantile) wine industry and operating as a consumer, wine group director, wine writer and blogger. In 1995, there were less than 40 wineries in the whole state, but now Texas stands with over 300 wineries with at least 50 of them in the Texas Hill Country alone. January also marks this anniversary with the publication of my second book on Texas wines: Texas Hill Country Wineries (from Arcadia Publications) – a pictorial history and wine trail guide to the central Texas wineries and the Texas Hill Country wine experience.

This Wednesday morning at 11 am until 12 noon CT, I will go live on Sommchat, a one hour long twitter chat hosted by Keeper Collection. I will be there to discuss my book and answer your questions on the Texas Hill Country Wineries and why the Texas Hill Country was names to the Wine Enthusiast’s 2014 List of Top 10 Must See International Wine Destinations. I will be joined by members of the Texas Hill Country Wineries wine trail. I have also invited some of Texas’s best and brightest sommeliers to join us.

In my opinion, the Texas Hill Country is the culmination of over 300 years of wine culture that has evolved in Texas.

Texas grapes grows in soils made from ancient sea limestone deposits, similar to the grape-growing regions of Europe. Texas wine culture arrived in the 1600s with Spanish missionaries who settled and planted vineyards in El Paso Del Norte. The 1800s brought German and Italian immigrant farmers to Texas.They considered wine a staple of everyday life and found ways cultivate grapes in their new land and ways to keep the industry alive even during times of Prohibition.

In what is now America’s No. 5 wine-producing state and the Texas hill country contains the highest density of wineries in the state and one of the three largest American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the United States. It may surprise some, but not the wine aficionados who have visited the Texas Hill Country’s 50 or more wineries that wine-and-culinary tourism is currently the Texas Hill Country’s fastest growing sector.

Hope to tweet with you on SommChat this week.

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To participate just use your Twitter account at www.twitter.com, but don’t forget to use the hashtag #sommchat so others can see and follow what you tweet. You can also go to the TweetChat room set up for #Sommchat (http://tweetchat.com/room/sommchat). No registration is required; you can login using your Twitter account info. In the TweetChat room, participants are invited to follow tweets, add comments or tasting notes and share thoughts as participants taste and discuss the wines. Another Twitter chat website which works well is: http://www.tchat.io/rooms/sommchat. On TweetChat and TChat the hashtag #sommchat will automatically be added.


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